Thetford Town Council: 'Youngster' steps down

Work commitments have forced one of Thetford's youngest town councillors to step down.

Gareth Pickering, 29, was elected to represent the Saxon Ward last year, along with his 21-year-old brother Sam Chapman-Allen and mother Marion Chapman-Allen.

The two brothers helped to cut the average age of the council from 70 to 58.6 years.

However, Mr Pickering has decided to stand down because of work commitments and because he will be moving from Thetford.

The announcement follows claims from representatives of the Thetford Labour Party that Mr Pickering had attended just four of 27 full council and planning meetings held over the last year.

Ed Chambers, Thetford Town Council clerk, said Cllr Pickering had attended town council meetings in May, June, July, November and last week's mayor-making ceremony, which he said would be his last official duty as a town councillor and would be resigning at the next town meeting.

Mr Chambers confirmed Mr Pickering had not attended any planning meetings since May last year.

Cllr Pickering said: "The electoral rules state that you have to either live or work in the area you represent. As I am no longer living in Thetford, I would not have been allowed to continue as a town councillor. This is my only reason for standing down."

He added: "I very much enjoyed representing local residents and taking the work of the town council forward."

"I am very sad to be leaving the town council especially at this very exciting time, but I cannot give the amount of time that this important role requires because of my work commitments."

Sylvia Armes, of Thetford Labour Party, said her call for his resignation was nothing personal.

"Mr Pickering last attended in November 2007 and then did not attend until just the other day on May 7. Had he not attended for just a couple more weeks, he would have been automatically removed.

"At this time of change in Thetford, we need councillors who will represent the people from their area and stick up for residents of the town.

"They simply cannot do this if they fail to attend a single meeting of the town council for nearly six months," she said.

A by-election for the vacant Saxon ward seat will take place in due course.